WRITING: Sound Advice

Some excellent advice on writing by Roger Ebert; thanks to Mark Bernstein (yeah, that Storyspace hypertext fellow) for bringing it up:

Mark Bernstein: Ebert: Newspaper Days: (Sunday, May 11, 2008MarkBernstein.org)

Ebert recalls his early days as a sportswriter, covering Champaign-Urbana sports.

I would begin a story time and time again on an old Smith-Corona manual typewriter, ripping each Not Quite Great Lead from the machine and hurling it at the wastebasket. [Bill] Lyon watched this performance for a couple of weeks and gave me two of the most valuable pieces of writing advice I have ever received: (1) Once you begin, keep on until the end. How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it’s going? (2) The Muse visits during creation, not before. Don’t want for inspiration, just plunge in.

These rules have saved me half a career’s worth of time, and gained me a reputation as the fastest writer in town. I’m not faster. I just spend less time not writing.

There are three valuable bits here: Stories have a way of going where they want to go so just let them lead you on and write down what’s happening. Secondly, the beginning doesn’t give you a clue to the story, you’ll find that out a millisecond before the reader and one thing leads to another so keep writing as you’re finding out the plot.  And third: even in doubt, write it out.

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